Friday, November 03, 2006

the vibiemme: adding a water cartridge

i talked yesterday about re-filling the vibiemme domobar super electronic -- a.k.a. caesar. he's a thirsty guy with a big boiler.

so i'm taking this opportunity again to harp a tad on the water situation. caesar's a heat-exchanger (hx) machine, which means among other things, most people will lack the handyman skills to descale him at home.

as i've said before, if limescale from your brewing water builds up in him, he can become nonfunctional. the best idea here is pure prevention: don't let him scale in the first place.

since caesar's a pour-over machine, we have the choice of waters to put in him: if you don't know the qualities of your own water, you should buy test strips to check it out.

you may live in a place with naturally soft water. in that case you're in luck -- you probably won't suffer a scale problem.

but as i've also discussed before, you might have soft tap water, but also a bad balance of trace stuffs. maybe you have too much iron, or sulfur, or something else that will harm the taste and brewing quality of the coffee -- if so you're probably already using a brita or something like that too.

commercial bottled waters can be a good solution, but they tend to be expensive. distilled and reverse-osmosis water are often quite cheap at the local store.

for example even here in pricey nyc, i can get distilled water for just US$1 a gallon. but you can't use this perfectly mineral-free water in caesar!

interestingly, caesar's autofill mechanism depends on having some minerals in the water. so a useful compromise that works for many people is to use distilled water, and mix it with a little water from the tap.

this allows the machine to get enough stuff so caesar's autofill will work correctly but should also prevent scale problems at an affordable price. the usual recommendation is 80% distilled, 20% tap.

with this mixture you can also add a rechargeable water cartridge to the tank to further improve your water situation. and this i did tonight.

if you're into super-safety, you can put your 20% tap water through a brita pitcher as well if you don't already.

adding the cartridge to caesar's simple. it looks like a tight fit when you first examine the top hole in the water tank, but the cartridge does slip through easily.

removing the tank's plastic cap, you can reach in and draw out both of caesar's hoses. one hose draws water into the boiler, and the other is a discharge hose.

the boiler hose is the one equipped with the little round screen thingie -- of course this is to keep particles out of the boiler, just in case anything should fall into the tank. here's a quick snap:vibiemme water hosesthe little round screen thingie slides right off with a gentle tug. then all you have to do is fit the nozzle of the cartridge right into the boiler hose:
vibiemme with water cartridgeit's a fairly nice fit and usually stays on without any problem. just be a little careful slipping the cartridge down into the tank.

if the hose comes off it can be a tad hard to fish the cartridge out of the tank. now this cartridge isn't permanent. the golden crystals you see inside need recharging on a regular basis, which certainly isn't hard or expensive to do.

notice in the picture that the cartridge has a removable bottom. so you can see it's easy to refill.

you just have to remember to do it and follow through! all these steps should greatly minimize if not completely eliminate the need for an expensive trip to your local commercial espresso machine shop for descaling.

so after attaching the water cartridge, i tried to pull a shot. i press caesar's manual pour button and pump gauge stayed at 0.

he wouldn't pump. his pump wasn't turning on!

yikes! what had happened?

i fished the cartridge out of the tank and looked at it. the holes at the end were blocked with swollen crystals -- the middle of the cartridge tube was dry and filled with dry crystals.

for some reason water wasn't flowing thru the cartridge. hmm, better talk to jim p. at 1st-line about that.

so i just swapped off the water cartridge, put the little round screen back on, and bingo!

caesar's in business. cappuccino for breakfast.

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posted by fortune | 7:04 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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